The recent proposal put forward by the Uganda Law Society to the parliamentary committee handling the constitutional and electoral reforms, tantamount to trying to use a democratic space to push for unfairness.
This is simply untenable not only in Uganda but globally. Put simply, you cannot continue to move against the global tide of fairness and hope to triumph!
The 2015 Inter-parliamentary Union report titled “Women in Parliament: 20 Years in Review” indicates that worldwide, women’s average share of parliamentary membership nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015, from 11.3 per cent to 22.1 per cent, largely due to the electoral quota system. Africa is among the best performing continents in this regard.
As of May 1, Rwanda was in the 1st position with 64 per cent, Seychelles 4th with 44 per cent, Senegal 6th with 43 per cent, South Africa 7th with 42 per cent, Namibia 11th with 41 per cent, Angola 18th with 37 per cent, Tanzania 22nd with 36 per cent and Uganda in the 23rd position with 35 per cent.
Notably in 2014, least progress was made in increasing women’s representation worldwide, with growth in women’s average share of parliaments rising only by 0.3 points to 22.1 per cent.
This implies that women’s electoral quotas are still necessary since a majority of countries are still below the 30 per cent mark considered the critical mass sufficient to significantly influence policy
Uganda can borrow a leaf from counterparts in the SADC region, whose Gender and Development Protocol, aims to increase women’s representation to 50/50 across the board by 2015.
Because of this, these countries i.e. South Africa, Seychelles, Namibia, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are posting impressive figures in women’s representation in parliament.
In Uganda, the debate now should actually be focused on how to increase women presence in Parliament like our colleagues in Rwanda.
For example, we could say in addition to women contesting for parliament on the reserved district seat, many women should be encouraged to stand on the open seats and be supported to win.
A massive campaign should be launched to ensure that any political force that locks out women on the basis of gender loses support.
As it stands now, the proposed creation of new constituencies without adequate gender safe guards may lower the proportion of women in the next parliament.
I have not heard any voices from the electoral commission on how gender will be mainstreamed in electoral process. This possibly is an area that has capacity gaps. In simple terms, any public institution today that does not see the necessity for and take steps to ensure gender parity needs help in ensuring that it is equipped to deliver this fairness.
Therefore rather than limit women’s spaces, Uganda should emulate the UN Women move to pursue the 50/50 mark by 2030 and this can be achieved by increasing women’s participation in all fields. For example, evidence shows that increasing women’s numbers in other managerial spaces has been very slow.
Gender advocates should rigorously pursue equality across the board. True that there are examples of women performing superbly at international and corporate levels and surpassing men in some university courses, but, some people still hold the attitude that women and girls should be less equal to boys and men.
For instance, how do we explain the irony in Uganda, that while the number of women graduates from law school surpasses men, very few women are reaching the height of judicial leadership and management?
So the challenge is therefore not just in politics but in all fields. Our actions should be focused on changing societal attitudes, reforming the public service to be friendly to women and tackling sexual harassment at the workplace.